ATLANTA - McDonald's is adding bone-in chicken wings to its menu in the Atlanta area, a move that could be big business for the poultry industry -- and more competition for restaurants focused on wings.
The world's largest burger chain -- which often sells more chicken than its core product -- is using Atlanta as a laboratory to test the wings because of its diverse population and a strong push from franchisees in the Atlanta metropolitan area.
If the product -- the chain's first chicken with a bone -- goes national, it would add millions of income for poultry companies because of the volume of business McDonald's commands, experts said.
"Any new chicken product they add will definitely give the industry a shot in the arm," said Charles Olentine, executive vice president at the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association. "When McDonald's introduced the Egg McMuffin, it reshaped the industry."
The addition of wings to Atlanta McDonald's locations comes as the industry braces for hikes in the price of corn -- the primary feed for chickens -- and tightened supplies because of this summer's drought. The Chicago-based company also reported slower global sales Wednesday, a reverse from earnings a year ago when profits were up.
Harold Shumacher, owner of the restaurant real estate firm Shumacher Group, applauded McDonald's move.
"It's probably a smart strategic move because internationally beef is not as popular and beef prices are going to go up even more than chicken" because of feed shortages, he said.
Technomic's Ron Paul said the addition would mean more competition for wings restaurants such as St. Louis Park-based Buffalo Wild Wings.
"McDonald's always has the advantage of saying, 'We're more convenient,'" he said.